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Published on 01/02/2009 at Fri Jan 02 06:00.
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There is no doubt that the sails have set for change in Denver. After twenty-one years with the franchise, Mike Shanahan has been relieved of his duties with the Denver Broncos. I am both saddened by this news, but also optimistic. While Mike Shanahan is undoubtedly a Hall of Fame Head Coach, and one of the best to ever have called a game — it is apparent that after several years of mediocrity that not even his coaching prowess could head Denver in the right direction.

Shanahan deserves praise for a myriad of things regarding Broncos football. From establishing them as one of the premier franchises in the league and for the Super Bowl wins back in the 90s. Not to mention his offensive genius and the mutual admiration and respect he had with and for his staff and players for two decades. You won’t find many coaches who are spoken of as highly as Mike Shanahan.

Despite the aforementioned, Shanahan deserves criticism in many regards. From blatant nepotism in hiring decisions and to an unheralded desire for power in the organization. Furthermore, a lack of commitment towards building a defense with an identity through the right and proper avenues. Some of these thoughts fans will disagree with, but I feel very strongly that said comments were very detrimental to the team, and undoubtedly played a role in his termination from the Broncos.

Mike Shanahan will always be remembered in Denver for all the right reasons. Honesty, integrity and a drive to win that is unparalleled in the NFL. Let there be no doubt that Shanahan will find another place to coach and continue along the road of success he has paved in his illustrious coaching career. Forever will he remain a staple in the identity of the Denver Broncos, and his contributions to the franchise and the city of Denver will always be remembered.

I became a fan of the Broncos in 1996, shortly after Shanahan was hired. He is the only coach I’ve endured. I will miss seeing him on the sidelines, I’ll miss his swagger on the field and I’ll miss his joking nature during press conferences with the media. One thing I won’t do is forget everything he has done and I hope none of us do.

It’s a new era in Dove Valley and I think it is one that should be welcomed. As the curtains close for one, they will open for another. We should all hope that the next coach of our beloved franchise will be “Like Mike.”

Here is to all the best for Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. The off-season starts with a bang. Lets keep it going.

  • Anthony33

    Christopher,
    Nice article and very accurate. I was stunned when I heard the news, but after a couple of days to absorb it, the things you mentioned above are what make this the right move.

    I have had a chance to read up on the candidates (thanks to the links from Bronco Talk) McDaniels, Morris, Spagnuolo and Stoops are all worthy no doubt, and the choice is really very clear and very simple.

    Spagnuolo is by far the best person available. I have thrown out a few of thoughts over the past couple of days, but after reading everything, I am now convinced he is the man for the job.

    - He is 49, not too old and not too young
    - He’s been coaching in some capacity for 25 years
    - The most important thing I saw was that he worked for eight years under Johnson in Philly then took what he learned and transformed the Giants defense. That is exactly what you look for, someone that can take what they learned and apply elsewhere and make it work.
    - Spiritual guy that does not carry a lot of ego.
    - Loved and respected by his players
    - I think he would be smart enough to leave the current offensive staff in tact and hopefully expand on that.
    - Obviously a defensive expert.
    - And to the last point in your article, appears to be Shanahan like in character and work ethic.

    We must get this guy!!!!!!!

  • Anthony33

    PS
    I know this is the guy kerry has been touting, so it pains me to have come to the same conclusion.

  • Steve

    Shanahan has given us some very good years and always fielded a competitive team and as a fan you can’t expect much from that in the NFL. What we all have to remember is the NFL has a system that punishes success in the name of parity. Shanahan has never had high draft pick to deal with but has always kept us competitive. I do agree that it was probably time for him to go and get some new blood in the franchise. Shanahan has built a nucleus of a very young talented offense that has a very bright future ahead. But for some reason he has just fell way short on the defensive and ST side of the ball and it takes all three to be able to compete for a Superbowl.

    There has been a lot of debate about college coaches, Def Cord, and Off Cord failing as head coaches. Here’s what we have to remember as that most everybody that becomes a HC in the NFL fails, the odds are against a new HC coming in and being successful. So saying a coach will fail because he comes from a certain area is just plain silly.

    What we have to remember as Bronco fans is why we are so lucky, we have the best owner in the NFL. Bowlen is going to sit down with all these guys and probably spend hours drilling them about their philosophy, style and what they are going to do with the Denver Broncos. When he says he wants someone that’s a 10in every area he means it. Just like when he says he expects to win a Superbowl next year, he means it. So we have to have a little faith that Bowlen is going to get the right person to come in and be successful with the Denver Broncos regardless of where he comes from.

  • JC

    I love Shanahan as much as the next fan but the the reality is he is just as responsible for the horrible defence as he was for the great offence. Mike had control over all coaches and players picked. He decided who to draft and who to sign as a free agent. Dre Bly??? That guy got beat like an rented mule every week. The And our D C…. I’ve never seen a D back play so far off his reciever game in and game out as our guys. Most of the routs run now are based on timing and if you constantly let your reciever run free through his rout you’re going to get burned time and time again. I’d rather see them get burned trying to make a play or hang with their recievers than watch the other team march with ease into the red zone to score. If I did my job like they did theirs, I’d be fored too. Mike was and is a great coach. And it won’t be long before he is giving the Broncos fits on game day just has he has done to others for years. It was time to move on. Give the boys a chance to compete on both sides of the ball so we might see another superbowl. The Players and fans deserve it.

  • adam

    With you all. It really feels like a death in the family, that said, with every passing day it seems a wise move. Most shocking (awakening) was when I heard that in the last 10 years, the Broncos won the AFC West 1 time. Shannahan elevated the franchise to new heights, but in the end he failed to re-invent what works, especially in his apparent failure to collaborate and distribute power.

  • GrahamSlam89

    Adam, Steve, Anthony, and Christopher, Those are probably the best and most accurate posts I have read on this site. I have been reading this site for about two years, and all of those posts make sense and have great points, IMO. It is nice to come on this site and read what intelligent people/fans have to say. I appreciated this site before, and most of the people that come here, but this is as good as it gets for me. Thank You all.

  • Dan Myers

    Happy New Year Denver Bronco bloggers.

    I have been very busy with the holidays and getting ready for the 2009 draft. Well now, there is something a little more important.

    New head coach coming. First off Mike Shanahan was great just did not take care of defensive matters. We GHF bloggers have been asking for defensive talent evaluator for four years. Well I think we will get one.

    Humm, let me piece some information I have gathered.

    Pat Bowlen has stated that the offensive coaches will stay, so they new HC needs to ‘fit’ mainly with Jeremy Bates (qb), Bobby Turner (rb), Jeb Fiche (wr), and Rick Dennison (line). Rick may not keep his asst hc title?

    Pat also stated the front office personnel will not change. Meaning Jim Goodman (agm personnel) and Brian Xanders (agm financial) will have a BIG say. So the new hc must fit personality wise here also.

    Also remember the NFL Rooney Rule as the Broncos have MANY candidates interview. The rule is that teams MUST interview at least one minority candidate.

    Eye wash interviews (IMO) are Bob Stoops from Oklahoma. With the current agm in place Pat may take a shot. NAH because Stoops is very comfortable at Norman.
    Dave McGinnis has excellent defensive credentials but was an hc before. Been there, done that.
    Rex Ryan is an excellent dc at Baltimore. Has had 4 hc interviews over last four years so maybe not ready. This also could be said about Chan Gailey.
    And I do not think Pat will go for an offensive coach like Josh Daniels of NE or even Gary Kubiak who has close ties.

    There are two favorites IMO. They have been defensive coordinators on two very successful teams. These teams rank in the top ten defensive categories each year. One is Steve Spagnuolo from the New York Giants and the other is Jim Schwartz from Tennessee, whom Jeff Fisher backs as being ready for a head coaching position.
    Either would be just fine.

  • Steve

    In my opinion the most important things in a HC are:
    1. (Evaluator) Excellent evaluator of talent, both players and coaches.
    2. (Motivator) of players and coaching staff, the team needs to be ready to play on Sunday. This has been my biggest heartache with Shanahan the last several years. It just seems like the Denver Broncos did not show up to play too many times. When you pay lots of money for Sunday ticket and then go to a game and pay hundreds of dollars for tickets and the professional athletes on the team you are rooting for just don’t show up to play it is very disappointing to a fan. Losing happens and we can all live with that, but just not putting forth an effort is entirely different.
    3. (Decision Maker) Good game management skills and decision making. Sometimes one critical decision in a game can change the whole complexity and some coaches just have that ability to make the right call and some don’t.

    As far as the x and o’s, that’s great for a HC to know that stuff, but if the HC is a10 on my #1(Evaluator) category he will get good coordinators that can run the 3 components a football team in game time-D,O, and ST. When he is a 10 on my #2 (Motivator) his team will show up to play every game. When he is a 10 on #1(Evaluator) and #2 (Motivator) his team is pretty much going to be in most every game with a chance to win and that’s where #3(Decision Maker) comes into play.
    That being said I do prefer a team with a dominant defense because I feel with a dominant D you have chance to win every game. Its just a lot harder to be consistently dominant on offense(in the NFL) and when you struggle on O without a dominant D you get embarrassed just like the Denver Broncos did in a few games this year.

  • Steve

    Please keep in mind my above post is bearing in mind the assumption that most any HC candidate in the NFL is going to know the x’ and o’s of football. Some being stronger on the D side and some stronger on the O side.

  • Candide

    If you can’t judge defensive talent, draftwise of through free agents, you will never get the job done in the NFL. Unfortunately that appears to be Shanahan’s (by that I mean Shanahan and crew) biggest deficiency. That’s the entire reason the Broncos have failed for at least the last 3 years.

    Five words for the new head coach: James Laurinitis or Taylor Mays

  • Candide

    Inability to effectively judge free agent talent and character combined with an astounding lack of success drafting defensive players equals Bye Bye Shanny.

    He may have just been snakebit these last 10 years but man what a lousy defense he is leaving Denver fans with (not including Champ). James Laurinitis or Taylor Mays anyone?

  • the decider13

    I can definately see Taylor Mays in orage and blue

  • jchase8410

    Although Spags is the best candidate out there, I wouldn’t have a problem with McDaniels from New England either. He is a great young offensive mind who would do with Cutler what he has with Matt Cassel’ and Cutler is 10 times the QB that Cassel is.
    The only way this move would make sense, however, is if they also brought in say, Morris as a DC. They need a very good DC and McDaniels would have to let him control the defensive side of the ball.

    That being said, please get is Spagnuola Mr. Bowlen!!!

  • jchase8410

    Can we trade up to get mays and maualuga? The Chargers got Tomlinson and Brees in the same draft, why not mays, or Moore at safety, and maualuga at mike?

  • Dakota fan

    Happy New Year, Broncos family.

    Answer a question for me: how much of a motivator do you suppose a pro head coach needs to be? Up to the ’05 Championship game with Pittsburgh, all I would hear about is the extreme respect that Shanahan’s players had for him and for the Broncos organization, because he apparently had them motivated quite suitably.

    Has that been lost because of Shanahan or is it jus the 21st century of the pampered professional athlete? It strikes me that there needs to be a happy medium struck between the “rah rah” of the college coach and the expectation that pro players are expected to motivate themselves. This is why I don’t think Bob Stoops would be a good choice as a pro head coach.

    Your thoughts?

  • flbronc

    Steve- I agree with you for the most part, but I dont think that i would put evaluator at no.1. I’d shift it to three. The prime job of a GM is to evaluate the talent and while juggling the salary cap, bringing in the best talent to fit the coaches system. While the HC needs to be able to help evaluate the choices and make depth chart decisions, I think that it is more the job of the GM and Player Personnel people to ‘evaluate’.

    Dakota- I think that the HC will always need to be a motivator. Look at SF before and after Singletary… there was a marked difference in the way the players played. Even though the players get a paycheck, having someone pushing them is always a good thing. When I get a compliment or a kick in the rear from my boss, I usually pick things up…. (and i do agree that stoops isnt the best choice we have)

    I’ll say this, after a couple of days of thinking, I would prefer to bring in a defensive minded coach. We have the best chance to win if our offensive staff can remain relatively intact, since we have a successful system and good rapport between players and coaches. I dont know enough to make a call btw spagnulo or schwartz, but if they are all that everybody is cracking them up to be maybe one of them is the way to go.

  • Gary Tharp

    Shame on you for firing Mike Shanahan, the best coach Denver has ever had. You can’t blame him for the injuries or the bad referees. First we lost Elway, and now our coach. How can we support you now?

  • http://broncomadness.com Garrett Barnes

    I think that if we can land Spags we could really build off of Mike Shanahan. I think that Shanny was good at putting us in a position to make an impact on offense. We can now build off that with a better defense with Spags. I also heard that we are interested in him and Heckert of the Eagles at GM as a package deal.

  • Candide

    Gary Tharp: 10 years and 1 playoff win. If he wasn’t a 2 time Super Bowl winner and the owner’s best friend, he would probably have been gone long ago.

  • dbroncos

    This may be a dumb question, but is there any chance we bring back Ted Sundquist?

  • There’s a Rat

    I just want to throw up after that one. Shanahan is a Rat. I think you Bronco fans better get used to drafting with a top 3 pick for years to come. Maybe if your owner would sell the team you might get somewhere, the game has past that old fart up. How long ago did Elway retire? Wasn’t it like 10 years ago? They should have fired the rat long ago. How many playoff wins since Ed retired Like 1. Pathetic.

  • http://Sniwog.com Jerry

    You all can try to spin this into a positive all you want, Bowlen’s an idiot! Sure things weren’t going great, but how in the F#@% is Mike to blame for all the injuries this year? I don’t question you make some changes, but to fire Mike and do it the way Bowlen did makes me ashamed to call myself a Bronco. What’s next Bowlen going to sale the team to Al Davis so that train wreck of an owner can finish us off?

  • http://BroncoTalk.net East

    Trust me Jerry it is far worse than you think. You need to look at the defensive draft history and free agency acquisitions. They are completely terrible and completely Mike Shanahan’s fault. 24-24 is not Denver. We are not the Lions.

  • AtwaterFan27

    I thought that Bill Romanowski said it best ” its time for a fresh coat of paint” I love Mike Shannahan and think hes one of the all time greats but man its time. Our defense is LOUSY and has been since 2005. Only Shannahan is the one to point the finger at. He should have done alot more with his hiring and firing of his defensive coaches. But hey, 2009 looks promising with the 5 head coaches so far that Pat Bowlen is looking at. Hopefully he will not select Stoops, not that Stoops isn’t a great coach, but the track record of a college coach coming into the NFL isn’t so hot. Especially HIGH PROFILE college coaches like, Spurrier, Saban, and Petrino.